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Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s address at the 15th Plenary Session of the Hungarian Standing Conference

Allow me to welcome the attendees of the Hungarian Standing Conference.

The first not very significant – but topical – comment I would like to make is that the Diaspora Council considerably outperformed the audience of the Hungarian Standing Conference in singing the National Anthem. This is what I can say in summary about yesterday’s meeting. There were probably more cantors among the members of the Diaspora Council than among those of the Conference.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
This remark is not simply facetious; my intention was more to give you an idea of the atmosphere these days at our meetings dealing with policy on Hungarian communities abroad. Earlier we were full of doubts, but now we all feel – you, too, may feel – that we are on a winning team. From once being a stigmatised, marginalised and fiercely criticised country, Hungary and the policy that we are pursuing have suddenly become winners. I believe that throughout the world today it is increasingly easy to stand up for Hungary. In earlier years this was not at all the case. I also said this yesterday to the members of the Diaspora Council, and expressed the gratitude of Hungarians living in Hungary – Hungarians in the mother country – for all the help that the members of the Diaspora Council have given during the difficult period of the past four to five years in defending Hungary’s honour and political position. I believe that it is well worth repeating those words of gratitude in this company. I would like to thank the leaders and representatives of Hungarians beyond the borders, as well as each and every member of those communities who – despite considerable headwinds in the difficult past four to five years – have bravely and wholeheartedly stood up for the policy which the mother country has sought to implement in Hungary and the whole of the Carpathian Basin.

Therefore if we feel that we are members of a winning team, our feeling is correct. All economic analyses and figures seem to indicate that the method which Hungary adopted to manage the economic crisis was successful. Part of this method was the choice not to patch up a failed economic policy which had plunged Hungary into a situation even worse than that of Greece. Instead we decided to launch a complete renewal in Hungary, a renewal which goes beyond deep reforms, and to build a work-based economy – with all which that implies – instead of the benefit-based economic system which has pushed so many Western European countries to the brink of bankruptcy. We did so by regaining our economic sovereignty, sending the IMF home, reducing our debt, restoring fiscal discipline and promoting economic growth with a new work-based taxation system which supports families. And I could go on. At the time these measures were all branded as unorthodox: a term which makes you feel like you are an outsider, as if what is happening is the private affair of a handful of mad political leaders with no qualms about political experiments. Compared with this state of affairs, five or six years have gone by, and the word “populist” cannot be used when referring to Hungary. Rational observers are beginning to abandon the use of this term – because the world has yet to see the kind of populism which radically reduces sovereign debt and the budget deficit, which kick-starts economic growth, and which in its general economic policy opens the door to economic rationality, in contrast to a former lack of reason.

Well now, Ladies and Gentlemen,
If we feel that we are in a winning team, we have to say with due modesty – because a very important accompaniment to victory is modesty, so without any chest beating, but firmly and in recognition of the work we have done – that the efforts which have served to transform our economic system have been successful. We may also feel like being the members of a winning team because in foreign policy terms Hungary has not been isolated – although many people have strived to isolate us. In this context, the party dimension of European politics is not irrelevant: a great many people are working hard to isolate Hungary – primarily for ideological reasons, because of its new constitution, conceived on Christian and national foundations. These efforts to isolate Hungary have not been successful, however. There are at least two important reasons for this – or perhaps three. One of them is that the Hungarian Foreign Ministry has adopted a different approach, and switched over to a policy which – to borrow a saying from Hungarian folk wisdom – I could sum up as “giving as good as you get”. We’ve not made polite comments, we’ve not bowed down, we’ve not crawled through the gap under the door: we’ve rejected every false claim, we’ve stood up for ourselves and we’ve protected our interests. For this we owe the Foreign Ministry respect: gratitude and respect. The second reason is that the Hungarian community not only refused to surrender in the kin state, but also beyond the borders. I have already spoken about this, however. You cannot isolate a country which is a world nation, which has communities throughout the world: larger ones in the Carpathian Basin and smaller ones scattered around the world. And when all at once a nation as a whole stands up for the mother country, that country, a community like that – which is a world nation which history has scattered around the world, but which has preserved its unity and cohesion – cannot be isolated. And the third reason no one has succeeded in discrediting Hungary in foreign policy terms can simply be described as good luck. Similar changes have also started in other countries, but ever since Napoleon we have known that above all victory needs good luck – and over the last few years Providence has not denied us that.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
We can therefore say that the misfit or black sheep has become part of mainstream politics in the Western world, and day by day what was earlier believed to be the exception is clearly gaining ground in the Western world. This is clearly demonstrated by election results, the arguments used in the political debates which are taking place in the Western world, their general tone and their scale of values.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
When preparing to come here to speak to you, I thought back over the last six years. We launched the Hungarian Standing Conference in 2010. Gone are the days when we would repeat the charges against our predecessors, stating that we had to relaunch the Conference, and this is not how it was supposed to be, as the point of the Conference is its permanence, and that it’s not for one government or another to dissolve it only for another to relaunch it. I am sorry for boring you with this, but politics is a world in which you have to attend to even the small things. I therefore looked at the closing statement we issued at the relaunch of the Conference in 2010. I will quote a few sentences from it, because rereading a closing statement always prompts one to consider whether the Conference has advanced the Hungarian cause in the world.

This is what we said six years ago: “The political and social consequences of the April 2010 elections have created an opportunity for the reunification of the Hungarian nation across borders. The new political order will bind together the diverse Hungarian nation, the equal members of which are Hungarians living in Hungary, in the Carpathian Basin and in communities dispersed around the world. The momentous change which is taking place in the country’s policy on Hungarian communities abroad reflects a new approach, in which formerly neglected Hungarian-Hungarian relations are being replaced by the sense of responsibility which we share for each other.” I can tell you that over the past six years our joint affairs have been conducted in this spirit. But as you will hear later, we have no reason to sit back and relax, or to be complacent with what we have achieved so far.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
The greatest success of the years between 2010 and 2016, which we may be the proudest of, is nothing less than the reunification of the nation. A hundred years after the Trianon diktat, the constituent parts of the Hungarian nation have found each other, we are strengthening each other, and Hungarian-Hungarian cooperation has become daily practice. Here I would also like to quote some figures: in the last few years 860,000 Hungarians beyond the borders have submitted requests for accelerated naturalisation or reinstatement of citizenship; 810,000 of them have already taken their citizenship oaths, and we have established the eligibility for Hungarian nationality of 100,000 people living in Hungarian diaspora communities.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
This indicates that we have no reason to be faint-hearted.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Recently on a number of occasions and in a number of forums we have discussed how much the situation of the individual parts of the Hungarian nation has improved since our accession to the European Union. Here we need to be frank, and to openly state that in the field of guaranteeing minority rights, the EU accession of the region’s countries has only made modest progress towards fulfilling the hopes we had originally. Clear examples of this are the case of the Székely Mikó College, lawsuits regarding the use of flags and names, and the campaigns launched against the leaders of the Hungarian community in Transylvania under the guise of the fight against corruption. EU rules related to the rights of nationalities are disregarded just as much as the corresponding rules of the diktat of Trianon were. It is best to speak frankly and honestly and state this fact – however sad it may be.

Furthermore, Ladies and Gentlemen, we are also affected by the fact that, for the time being, enlargement of the European Union has come to a halt. There is a feeling, a situation, a state of mind which is somewhat euphemistically referred to in Brussels as “enlargement fatigue”. This means that they do not want to admit any further members, but they express this in somewhat emotional terms, implying a feeling of exhaustion. This causes us pain on two counts: Serbia and Ukraine. The accession of Serbia to the European Union is a fundamental Hungarian national interest, and I’m convinced that the gradual integration of Ukraine into the European Union – culminating in full membership – is likewise a Hungarian national interest.

And finally, massive modern-day population movement is in progress. We all see this, but Brussels appears to be powerless – or is indeed powerless – to counter it. This mass migration wave is against the fundamental interests of the Hungarian communities in the Carpathian Basin. Here I must note that there are ongoing attempts to replace our political bedrock. We are now fighting not only intellectual and ideological battles, but there are forces in Europe which actually want to change the bedrock – the very subsoil – of European politics. We know that the subsoil influences what can take root and grow, and this is no different in politics. Therefore I must state with regret that this modern-day mass population movement is not only being assisted externally, but also from within – from within the countries which are the targets of migration. A considerable amount of debate in Europe is not about how to stop mass migration, but about how to provide for the safest possible transportation to Europe of enormous numbers of people. While others want to see these people in the EU, we citizens of Hungary – along with many others – do not.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me now also say a few words about the future. As far as I can see – and as I said, we should not be faint-hearted – we should continue to place the cause of the survival and strengthening of Hungarians in the Carpathian Basin on two pillars. One pillar should be a mother country which is continuously strengthening economically and which takes responsibility for every Hungarian. The other pillar should be the unity of the parts of the nation beyond the borders, and their strength to enforce their interests locally.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
When we take stock of our responsibilities and define the pillars of our policy on Hungarian communities abroad, we should also mention the fact that we can see a considerable change in the currents of world politics. As we simply say in Budapest: there is a situation. This means that we must once again ask questions about things which earlier appeared to be obvious. Taboos are being discarded, and now we can ask questions which were once forbidden. As we can clearly see, the conventional mainstream European political and intellectual elite are fighting this process tooth and nail, and will insist on the status quo ante will all their strength. If, therefore, you have recently received the impression that Budapest or Hungary and the Hungarian government are in the opposition camp within the European Union – and later I shall mention that this is not only true of us, perhaps, but also of the V4 – then this is not an entirely inaccurate description of the situation. We are indeed in a kind of opposition position, if you like: in Brussels the place we occupy is that of the European reform opposition. The intellectual chaos which prevails today in the world – or rather in the Western world – is amply illustrated by the absurd situation which developed after the death of Fidel Castro. Naturally, out of respect for the dead, one overlooks the career of a politician like him, and does not reproach him for anything, as Christian belief demands of us a different attitude. One should respect the dead, but some analysts have said things which are absurd enough to make one’s hair stand on end.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
I’m convinced that the excuses they make in Castro’s favour and their concealment of the truth with lies are signs of a left-liberal world order which is now in a state of crisis and disintegration. They clearly show that there is complete chaos in the heads of the elite who are now responsible for the fate of Europe. And I am afraid that the current elite in Europe, who rose from the ranks of the dreamers of ’68, still fail to understand what the nature of the harsh socialist and communist reality was – here in Europe, and in countries such as Cuba.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am convinced, however, that there is an even bigger problem than this error, this insensitivity towards the victims of dictatorships. It is that a great many members of today’s European political and intellectual elite are not only wrong, but actually believe in the fantasy world which they identify with and have fabricated from communism and their earlier socialist dreams. I am convinced that this is why many in Brussels still fail to understand the nature of Brexit – Britain’s withdrawal from the EU. And I think that this is also the reason they are still unable to come to terms with Donald Trump’s victory in the United States presidential election. Despite this, I am convinced that the US election demonstrates nothing less than reality prevailing over ideologies and utopias, and over a system of governance which sought to base its actions on ideologies and dreams which were strangers to reality. There is also a similar feeling in Europe. We must declare that we, too, have had enough, and the European people, regardless of nationality, have had enough of people who continually trying to make us feel guilty. We have had enough of our political opponents branding us as nationalist when we assert ourselves and when we talk about ourselves as Hungarian – or, say, as Danish, British or French. When we speak about the importance of families we are dismissed as homophobic, and when we mention the importance of Christian roots we are branded as clericalist. People have had enough of this not only in the United States and not only in Hungary, but also across the whole of Europe. And I am convinced that this is the spiritual fuel, the drive and purpose behind the current political changes.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
After all, what happened was that in two countries, which are customarily referred to as models of democracy, the voters took back the right to make decisions. This is what happened with Brexit, and this is also what happened in the United States presidential election. People who love their countries, love their cultures, and are concerned for their future decided in favour of change. It is not hard to find a parallel between these changes and the changes which started in Hungary in 2010. We, too, wanted nothing more than for reality to once again prevail in Hungary, for politics to be rooted in reality, and for the government of the day to have no other goal but to finally help the country back on its feet and not allow the Hungarians to be dependent on anyone.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
In this company I should perhaps mention that the changes in Europe and overseas indicate that political systems in the Western world are about to change. I do not want to speak about party political matters – on the one hand, because it would not be worthy of this conference, and on the other hand because it would discomfort those of you who are not from political parties of the right. I will simply say that the ideals of the left have clearly lost their appeal and popular support. We can perhaps state this as fact, regardless of the hopes we may have for the future. But looking at the situation in Europe, we can indeed state this as fact. At the same time, however, the conventional right also has little to boast about – and clearly it, too, must change; if things carry on like this, we, too, will lose our support base, just as the left has. So at this point in time we are talking about a loss of popular support not only on the left, but also on the conventional right.

It is widely claimed that the newly elected president of the United States has not offered a programme – and perhaps he does not have a specialist programme as we understand it in Central Europe. He has no thesis analysing all sorts of internal interdependencies – though our friends here from America are better equipped to enlighten us on this. I am convinced that even from so far away, from across an ocean, if we correctly understand the programme we can infer three things from what was stated in the campaign. These three things hold valid here, in Europe, too. From what was said, one can understand that it is not reasonable to support a global trade policy which eliminates the jobs of the conventional middle classes. In my view, this is also true of Europe. Another idea which can be regarded as generally held in Europe is that the export of democracy around the world, as it has been pursued for decades, has not resulted in the wider establishment of democracy in areas which are distant from the Western world. On the contrary, it has caused instability, the consequences of which we have later had to endure in a number of ways – such as terrorism. And finally, there is the assertion that a country has borders, and that one may only enter a country if one is allowed in and observes the laws, and anyone who does otherwise must be prevented from entering; and if they somehow enter all the same, they must be removed. Yet again, this is an idea in the United States which is valid for Europe.

I looked at today’s international press comments on the court decision – which I personally believe to be a sound one – in which a long prison sentence was handed down to the man who encouraged migrants to attack the border fence, and the Hungarian police who were protecting it, at Röszke a few months ago. This man received a long prison sentence. All I would say is that we have played according to the rules. We do not claim that we are always right, and neither do we say that we are morally better than others. If this was indeed the case, something like this could only be established after a thorough debate; but I would caution anyone against making such statements. But we have been playing fairly, and we made the situation clear in advance – as could be seen from billboards across the country. This was no coincidence, because we knew the kind of conflicts we were facing. We told them that if they came here they would have to observe our laws, and if they did not there would be legal consequences for breaking our laws. We told everyone, and everyone had the opportunity to find out about this. The international press also covered this widely, and so I am glad that the Hungarian state’s law enforcement agencies have consistently enforced the laws of Hungary.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
One more thing about the current decline in popular support for conventional European political forces. If we are to shake Europe out of its current state of stagnation and declining support for conventional political forces, we need – and in the years to come shall continue to need – innovation, new ideas, new approaches, and intellectual and political courage.

Well then, Ladies and Gentlemen,
There is one other thing which I must talk about in your company: the way in which the processes of the past six years have united the countries of Central Europe. We have managed to downgrade our historical problems – naturally not to resolve them, but to downgrade them. We have managed to move beyond them, and to develop an arrangement for cooperation with the Czechs, the Slovaks and the Poles which one would never have dreamt of before. The position which we occupied in the European Union after 2004 – which we could call the shared history of suffering in our European integration through membership – also prompted us to cooperate; because unless these four countries unite their forces and our horses pull together in the same direction, we shall always on the sidelines of the European Union. Naturally this cooperation has hard economic implications. This is also an interesting issue in terms of intellectual history: after the breakup of the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy the idea repeatedly emerged that it should be replaced with some kind of Central European cooperation. Indeed this idea also existed in the second half of the 19th century, among those who wanted to dismantle a Monarchy which was sentenced to death – first conceptually, and later also in reality. However, this political goal, this desire – which has been voiced by some very decent, respectable and sober-minded people over the last hundred to one hundred and fifty years – did not gain in popularity, and proved to be unsuccessful, because the economic foundations for it were lacking. The strength of the current Visegrád Four cooperation is that it has its feet on the ground: it has economic foundations. I do not want to bore you with the statistical data, but in my view it is remarkable that, in the six months in 2016 for which we have information, the Visegrád Group with its population of 64 million conducted healthily structured trade with Germany worth 128 billion euros. A group of countries with a population of 64 million conducted trade worth 128 billion euros with Germany. In itself this is a very high figure, but if we consider that during the same period in which we conducted 128 billion euros of trade, German-French trade amounted to 86 billion and German-US trade was 82 billion, this clearly indicates that the European economy’s centre of gravity is slowly but surely shifting towards Central Europe. Germany and the Central European region, which is intelligently linked to Germany in a well-structured manner, continue to account for European economic growth, and will continue to do so in the future. This raises a great many questions which I would not like to go into now, but which could once again place the entire issue of “Mitteleuropa” back in focus.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Naturally it is also our duty to see Ukraine through the eyes of the Hungarians in Transcarpathia, Serbia through the eyes of the Hungarians in Vojvodina and Romania through the eyes of the Hungarians in Transylvania. This is, of course, also true of Slovenia, Croatia and, indeed, Austria. This is a clear sign that, as far we are concerned, the European Union and the Schengen Area do not end at various country borders – in particular, if we think of Serbia and Ukraine. And so we have to adopt a different approach. We do not see state borders as any kind of starting point. We have to live with their existence, but do not see them as a starting point when we define, say, the scope and validity of our economic policy. Earlier this way of thinking was generally perceived by all our neighbouring countries as a hostile idea aimed against them. They branded this economic approach by Hungary – of thinking in terms of the Carpathian Basin – as an intellectual tendency which ran counter to their own economic interests. I believe that in this respect a historic change has occurred. As I see it, the Hungarian aspiration that the Hungarian economy – or the economic network created by the Hungarian people, which transcends state borders – should not be perceived in terms of state borders, but in terms of a region, this idea has taken root. In this context, we can perhaps also identify here the beneficial effect of the European Union. We must think in terms of regions: regions which transcend borders. The strengthening of Hungarians in Vojvodina is not a threat to Serbia, but is beneficial for Serbia; the strengthening of Hungarians in Transcarpathia is not harmful to Ukraine, but something positive; and this is also true in Romania, in Croatia and – naturally, on a different scale – in Slovenia. I am convinced that this is an enormous change, and it must revitalise our Carpathian Basin policy to its very foundations. It will result in mutually advantageous deals and – as they say in the fashionable jargon – it will create win-win situations, and will open up opportunities to us. We are talking about things which are also advantageous for the recipient countries, and therefore our policy of placing economic resources at the disposal of territories beyond the borders is sound not only economically, but also politically. Now I’m not going to quote the figures, because you who are sitting here may know them better than me, but we should just confirm that here is a turning point in economic history. The Hungarian national economy has managed to make itself so strong here, at home, that the mother country has arranged to release resources and business opportunities for Hungarians in Vojvodina, for Hungarians and Ukrainians in Ukraine, and for young entrepreneurs in a number of areas – such as, for instance, in Transylvania. These are no small matters. In the case of Vojvodina, we are talking about a programme worth almost 50 billion forints, and for Transcarpathia, we are also talking about a programme of 15–20 billion. Only yesterday at the Cabinet meeting, when we reviewed the year’s accounts, the Foreign Ministry submitted a request for additional funds; I’m not only talking about Transylvania, but both areas. It has emerged that the Hungarian regions are able to absorb this not inconsiderable funding, and incorporate it into their economic and social bloodstream.

I continue to support the idea of thematic years: programmes focusing on different themes across the entire Carpathian Basin, which we should announce every year. If I’m not mistaken, this year we announced the year of young Hungarian entrepreneurs beyond the borders, and if the figures are correct, with this programme we can claim to have benefited two thousand entrepreneurs or young people seeking to set up businesses. This has cost about 600 million forints, which we have channelled to the recipients through various calls for proposals. I am convinced of the sense of the State Secretariat’s suggestion that we should declare 2017 the year of Hungarian family businesses beyond the borders. Within this we should start supporting businesses: Hungarian businesses across the Carpathian Basin which are run on a family basis.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
If, in closing, I now return to the passage which I quoted from our 2010 document, I can tell you that – starting with the unification of the nation under constitutional law – we have reached a stage at which Hungarian businesses have started developing a network across the Carpathian Basin which acts as a kind of arterial system.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Although I want to avoid mentioning current affairs, and we would like to subordinate these to the great strategic issues, we are thinking about the future but living in the present. Therefore today’s affairs cannot be neglected, because if they remain unresolved, our future will be undermined. And the fact is that there will be elections in quite a few places – of particular significance in Romania. While this appears to be a current political affair, I am convinced that it is much more significant than that, since – although the people involved tell us how they see their own situation – we see the upcoming election as decisive. This is because we believe that in a number of places in Romania anti-corruption measures – which are otherwise always justified, and there is no modern state in which they would not be legitimate – have been turned against the leaders of the Hungarian community. This is the conclusion I came to when I met the leader of the RMDSZ; and, Hunor, if I understood correctly, at our last meeting you shared this opinion. We are therefore under a great deal of pressure – and it has been a long time since Transylvanian Hungarians’ representation in Bucharest was in as much danger as it is in now. I would now ask everyone to make representation in Bucharest their top priority. There are debates over whether this is indeed the most important issue; we are not in a position to decide this debate from here, in Budapest – it will be decided by the Hungarians in Transylvania. All I can tell you now is that in this situation I am certain that if there is no Hungarian representation in Bucharest, we shall not be able to make up for the resulting loss of energy from here in Budapest. I am also convinced that the effectiveness of our policy – which is firmly based on national foundations, and is designed to support the Hungarian community in the Carpathian Basin, including in Romania – is always lower if there is no Hungarian interest representation in the parliament of a given country’s territory. I would therefore first of all encourage Hungarians in Transylvania to vote. Secondly, I would urge their leaders to find a form of cooperation which gives the strongest guarantee that in the coming years Hungarians will be represented in the Parliament in Bucharest.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Finally I would like to announce that a week ago we signed a comprehensive agreement. Naturally I don’t want to upset or annoy our friends from the left, but the leaders of the left have always been the loudest advocates of a policy in Hungary of broad social and economic agreement – rightly so, in my opinion. We should recognise, however, that over the past 26 years no such agreement had been reached. Until now. Last week we managed to come to an agreement which many would perhaps have least expected from a centre-right government. There is an agreement between trade unions, employers and the Government which determines the most important pillars and most important decisions in Hungary’s economic policy over a period of no less than six years. In consequence of this, in all probability – as this agreement is not just based on dreams and desires, but on the harsh realities of life and the opportunities and situation of the Hungarian economy – there is a realistic chance that its goals will be successfully achieved. I can therefore tell you that, thanks to this agreement, in the next five to ten years – we can be certain about five years, and hopeful about ten – the Hungarian economy will remain on a continuously upward path and will continuously gain in strength. Thanks to this agreement, not only will we have a strong mother country, but also sufficient resources – and both of these things are needed for our policy on Hungarian communities abroad.

Thank you for your attention.